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3 The Balfour Mission and Americans Abroad The assessment by the British Chief of the Imperial General Staff of America's ability to influence the outcome of the war differed little from that of the German warlords who gambled for victory with the resumption of unrestricted U-boat warfare in February. On February 13, 1917, Robertson wrote a fellow general, Sir A.J. Murray: "I do not think that it will make much difference whether America comes in or not. What we want to do is to beat the German Armies, until we do that we shall not win the war. America will not help us much in that respect."1 Robertson's views were based on reports from British representatives in America and the evaluation of his own staff. The British military believed that the United States was incapable of rapidly developing a mass army. After one year, assuming weapons and equipment were available, the British General Staff predicted that "not more than 250,000 men could be put into the field."2 British pessimism about America's ability to field an army was hardly surprising or demeaning to the American military establishment. Although short of professional and experienced officers, the British New Armies (composed of volunteers) still had available to them more regular staffs and regular regimental officers than the U.S. Army. Turning civilians into soldiers is a slow process in the best of circumstances. Lord Kitchener had taken a minimum of eight months, typically a year or more, to prepare his New Army divisions for the field. An even greater concern was that the United States might remain aloof from the European war. Colville Barclay, the British charge d'affaires in Washington, warned that "there appears to be a strong feeling in the States in favour of limited co-operation for purely American purposes." American leaders would probably "dissociate themselves " from Entente war objectives and not contemplate any military involvement.3 The immediate help America could give was thought to be primarily in finance, the possible addition of neutral shipping because of The Balfour Mission and Americans Abroad 45 American participation, and a boost to Allied morale. Significantly, Barclay emphasized that belligerency would not really enhance the value of American industry to the Entente cause. America was not a supplier of such modern weapons as tanks, machine guns, and airplanes ; it produced primarily munitions, not the weapons that fired them.4 With Anglo-French production of munitions now sufficient to meet Entente needs, any increased American production in this area would be of no real assistance. Barclay's assessment proved correct. The U.S. Army in fact was largely equipped for modern war in 1917-18 by Anglo-French industry. British and American evaluations of America's ability to influence the course of the war in 1917 and even 1918 resulted in many similar conclusions. If America began to prepare immediately and to ship piecemeal divisions to Europe, it would still take a year to put a token force of some 250,000 men on the European continent. Such a small and inexperienced force, whatever its impact on Entente morale, would have no direct influence on the monster battle with the German army. On the other hand, if America, as Hoover recommended to Wilson, initially shipped no troops to Europe but rather concentrated on building a powerful army "in being" at home, American help would be at least two years away. A year or more seemed necessary just to transport an army, once formed, to Europe. Wilson's inflated view of America's ability to hasten the defeat of Germany and his wishful thinking that the conflict was rushing to a conclusion had been reinforced by Lloyd George, who had suggested to him in February 1917 that American participation "would shorten the war, might even end it very quickly."5 These sentiments in no way represented Lloyd George's real position. He saw little likelihood of ending the war within the near future, but he was still confident of victory, especially if he could extract greater sacrifices from Britain and the Dominions and redirect the British military effort away from the western front.6 On March 20 he told the representatives of the Dominions , who attended the inaugural meeting of the Imperial War Cabinet , that it was unlikely that Germany could be forced to accept a British peace that year. Nonetheless, the British Empire must make a supreme effort in 1917 because of the decline of...


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